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To look at it is an exercise in seeing. Shafie experiments in how colors play side-by-side on the eyes, making straight lights appear wavy, or circles pulsate. Each work is made up of thousands of pieces of paper, and seemingly as many colors. Except Shafie only used nine colors to create this series of vibrating color fields: ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow medium, quinacridone magenta, c.p. cadmium orange, c.p. cadmium yellow primerose, light magenta, phthalo green, dioxazine purple, florescent chartreuse.
Transition 4 (2014) is particularly fun to look at. It is a tondo piece measure 60 inches across. Mutli-colored swirls of rolled paper are accented by larger, rectangular blocks of color strips. It called to mind a few things for us – underwater coral, candies like Jawbreakers or Sour Belts, and even the Campana brothers’ Sushi series of furniture. Ghalb 7 (2014), uses a similar spiral layering, transitioning from yellow to blue in color, in the frame of a tear drop set askew. 9 Colors (2015) has something celestial about it, transitioning from bright oranges and pinks to dark blues, greens, and purples in the center.
Shafie doesn’t just create pattern and colorplay with the layering of paper. The artist also creates sculptural pieces, with eye-catching texture, often incorporating handwritten Farsi text in ink. Block 2 (2015) is a cube made up of sheets of paper, painted, then stacked, and then written on its edge, like the spine of a book. This work has the words “love” and “passion” written in Farsi. Her use of text, though, isn’t always visible. In Spike 8 (Telesm Series) (2015), words are written on acrylic-painted paper that is then rolled into elongated cones, creating a spiky surface (as the title suggests) and rendering the words illegible. This repetitive use of text–and paper and color, for that matter–calls to mind meditative practices in Sufism. “I grew up in an environment where it was heavily decorated,” said the aritst, who grew up in Iran and currently lives in Silver Spring, MD. “I was accustomed to seeing repetition, and it felt very natural.”
“Surfaced” is on view at Leila Heller Gallery in New York through April 11.